How Does Garmin Measure Stress?

how does garmin measure stress

High stress is something that is all too common for most of us, but also potentially dangerous for our overall health. Finding ways to measure stress are crucial to understand how our health is responding, and a Garmin device with a Garmin stress score is perfect for this. With this in mind, how exactly does Garmin track stress?

The Garmin stress score can provide medical advice outside of a physician’s independent judgment regarding a person’s overall stress. A Garmin device provides all day stress tracking, such as heart rate variability, muscle tension, sleep tracking, and much more to help a person manage stress.

In this guide, we will explore exactly how a Garmin product can measure stress. There are many variables to take into account on exactly how Garmin measures stress, and this article will break it all down for you.

Read on to find out more about the Garmin stress level feature and much more.

Quick Overview: Our Top Picks for Garmin Smartwatches with Stress Level Feature
Garmin HRM Pro
  • Supports heart rate variability
  • Transmits real time heart rate
  • Running dynamics
Garmin Fenix 6 Pro
  • Has barometric altimeter technology
  • Solar powered multisport GPS watch
  • Durable lens and battery
Garmin Fenix 5s Plus
  • Wrist-based heart rate
  • Advanced performance metrics
  • Improved satellite reception
Garmin Forerunner 945
  • Safety and tracking features
  • Pulse oximetry data
  • The battery life lasts up to 2 weeks in smartwatch mode

How does a smartwatch measure stress levels?

The main tool used in a Garmin device through the Garmin connect app is the Garmin stress score. This measures high stress levels, medium stress levels, and average stress levels with great accuracy.

Your device analyzes your heart rate variability while you are inactive to determine your overall stress. Training, physical activity, sleep, nutrition, and general life stress all impact your stress level.

The stress level range on Garmin devices is from 0 to 100, where 0 to 25 is a resting state, 26 to 50 is low stress, 51 to 75 is medium stress, and 76 to 100 is a high stress state.

Knowing your stress level can help you identify stressful moments throughout your day. For best results, you should wear the device while sleeping too, since Garmin stress score predicts variations in your autonomic nervous system during sleep as well.

What does Garmin stress score mean?

Stress score is an advanced feature on select Garmin models that can give you clues on your overall stress conditioning and how this translates to any planned activities you may have.

An HRV (heart rate variability) stress test is a measurement of variation in beat to beat intervals over a specific timeframe. If you are stressed, your heart rate will increase – which is something to be aware of – especially if you add even more increased heart rate variability through exercise.

Less variability in your heart rate means you are likely to be a bit less fatigued, whereas higher variability means that your body is coping with your exercise appropriately. All of this is recorded through a stress score.

You will need a Garmin Heart Rate Strap to adequately complete the stress test and receive a stress score.

Something like the HRM Pro, as linked to above, lets you share accurate heart rate data with your Garmin device, compatible fitness equipment and third-party training apps, such as Zwift. It also helps you improve your running form by providing running dynamics, including vertical oscillation, ground contact time, stride length and more.

The HRM-Pro can even store heart rate data when you hit the water then automatically sends it to your device after your swim. During team sports, it also monitors steps, calories and intensity minutes then syncs with your Garmin watch.

Score breakdown

The HRV stress score is broken down into the following measurements:

HRV StressScore
Very High90-100
HRV Stress: Score Breakdown

Anything close towards zero means that you’re less stressed and probably a bit fresher in terms of exercise. Whereas anything closer to 100, means you’re probably a bit fatigued and you should consider what you are going to be doing that particular day.

Essentially, the lower the score means the higher the variability, which is a good thing as discussed above.

However, one of the most important things about the HRV stress test, and in order to get accurate data time after time, is that you need to ensure a lot of consistency in your process when you are conducting this test.

Always stand completely still for at least 3 minutes when you are wearing the strap and recording your HRV.

Is Garmin stress level accurate?

In order to get the most accurate data according to a Garmin stress test, make sure you conduct the test in the same location and the same environment – every time.

Whether that’s in your bedroom, or any quiet place inside of your house, you must ensure that the environment is quiet and not conducive to stressful situations. Lower the lighting, avoid distractions, and ensure noise is at an absolute minimum.

You should take the test right after waking up if you can since this is the time of day when we are less-stressed than at any other point, including right before we go to sleep.

Another thing to do to ensure accuracy is to try and maintain the same breathing pattern. We know that heart rate is closely regulated by a lot of different factors within the body, including the autonomic and sympathetic nervous systems, so it is important to try and maintain a normal breathing pattern to offset the already internal processes affecting heart rate.

Also, try and maintain the same nutrition and hydration status before the test. Refrain from drinking copious amounts of water, and certainly not coffee or tea, before the test.

Always make sure you take the stress test before exercise as well. It is important to try and get a low stress score, and any additional stressing instances can alter the test from its most accurate level.

What is a good stress score on Garmin?

Your Garmin connect app has the ability to show your stress rate all day, and the score you capture at any given moment is not as accurate as it would be by using the HRV chest strap.

With this in mind, a good stress score on a Garmin device will typically be anything under a score of 50.

Above 34 and to 50 is considered to be low to low-end medium stressors affecting you, which is what we can all expect as we go about our day to day lives- although we should always refrain from overtly unhealthy activities, such as tobacco smoking.

The important thing to look for though, is your all day stress tracking score in Garmin connect. This will give you an aggregated score overall, which you can them compare to the metrics listed in the above chart, as well as a feature that shows the exact amount of time your experienced each of the stress levels throughout the day.

If your score is consistently in the higher ranges (70 and above) you need to work on fixing this.

What is a bad stress level on Garmin?

The worst stress scores listed on Garmin connect will range anywhere from a score of 70 and above. This is far above an average stress level and can indicate a trend towards ill-health if the score is consistently in this upper register every day.

Psychological stress, as opposed to outright physical stress, can sometimes account for a large majority of high stress scores. Therefore, it is also important to try and manage stressors in your day-to-day life to avoid this type of stress causing your overall score to remain high.

Why is my stress level high when I sleep?

There are numerous different reasons as to why your stress level may be high when you sleep.

The average person should get at least 8 hours of sleep per night. 7 hours of sleep is typically optimal in order to function at full capacity the next day, and anything under this threshold is usually considered to be not enough sleep.

On the flip side, those who consistently sleep longer than 10 hours per night may need to be checked for a possible sleep disorder, in addition to those who simply cannot sleep at least 7 hours per night.

Maintaining a resting state during all sleep stages is essential to reducing stress and restoring the mind and body, and the Garmin sleep tracking widget on each model where available can help with this.

With the accurate sleep data you receive, the reason your stress score may be high most of the time is that your waking time is over 20% or you have over 80% of light sleep.

Besides, if your bedtime is less than 5 hours, no matter how good the sleep quality is, your sleep will still be seen as insufficient. Therefore, the keys to improving your stress score are to increase your bedtime and to improve your sleep quality – especially if you have exercised vigorously during the day.

Be sure to log off all devices such as phones and computers at least 30 minutes before you go to bed. Make sure you sleep in a dark and atmospherically comfortable environment. Light (either sunlight or artificial light), will disrupt your circadian rhythm and affect sleep eye movements and rem sleep.

Aim for medium stress at least

A medium score while sleeping is roughly equivalent to receiving an adequate (but not perfect) quality of sleep cycle. One way to ensure you get an accurate reading is to use the optical heart rate sensor with the sleep tracking feature.

The optical heart rate sensor can be used during advanced sleep monitoring as long as you enable the optical heart rate sensor before you go to sleep.

Make sure the Garmin Connect app is up-to-date and make sure you wear your device at least two hours before bedtime and two hours during sleep in order to find out when stress occurs while asleep.


What factors can affect my Garmin stress score?

There are numerous factors that can affect your Garmin stress score. As mentioned, not getting enough rest the night before can immediately cause stress the next day since the body is not rested, which can also lead to increased eating or napping throughout the day as well.

Additionally, exercising, and more specifically, intense physical training, can also cause fluctuations and variations in your stress score. This is true even if you lead a normally healthy lifestyle.

This is also why it is important to acknowledge your stress score immediately upon waking up as this is the most undiluted reading you can hope to get throughout the day. You can then use the score on the stress widget to make the best decisions for you based on the advice given in terms of what physical activity or training you are planning to do that day.

Also, nutrition, as well as possible alcohol or tobacco use can increase stress on the body. With nutrition, eating is an intense digestive and metabolic process that your body undergoes. This can cause rises and drops in insulin as well as psychological feelings of tiredness or lethargy.

Too much alcohol and any tobacco use can automatically raise your blood pressure and heart rate too.

How does Garmin track body battery?

The Garmin body battery is a universal measure that collects data across many different health statistics that is then presented as one aggregated piece of information.

For example, throughout the day Garmin watches are tracking your various activities-steps, HRV, your stress level both while awake and asleep, and numerous other health stats.

To track this, Garmin uses your HRV and then compares this across numerous factors, one of which is stress.

The stress rating given in Garmin connect is then able to be read and compared against what the overall battery rating is. If your stress is high, the battery rating will be low, which means you need to pace yourself to prevent your battery from bottoming out by the end of the day.

Why does my Garmin watch say I’m stressed?

Your Garmin watch is reflecting a stressed rating because this is what your HRV is reflecting based on the tests taken throughout the day. Typically, any reading that falls within the medium to high to very high stress rating will report back a reading that you are stressed.

Take measures to avoid intense physical activity and also seek to address what could be stressing you out during the day.


Stress monitoring with Garmin watches and other products is a very beneficial feature to ensure good health stats. There can be psychological or physical stress, yet each kind can lead to possible medical conditions if not addressed.

This useful feature on most Garmin watches now even go so far as to indicate if your stress is coming from a lack of adequate sleep.

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